When I saw the promotional material for Neo Steam I knew I had to play it. Atlus was offering a steam punk game that allowed me to play a large wolf character that wasn’t portrayed as a dim, savage barbarian! In my eyes those were all good things. The game released last week and I’ve had the opportunity to spend a decent amount of time with it. With many hours under my belt I thought it was a fair time to give my review. Before I get started I want to give a little background about Neo Steam and the “steam punk” genre.
Neo Steam is a free to play MMO that offers a range of payment plans and some premium content. Players are divided into two factions: The Republic of Rogwel and the Elred Kingdom. PvE is very important in the game but there are a lot of open PvP areas. Strangely enough, those areas pretty much include all of the cities. Neo Steam also has a very clear anime feel and relies heavily on graphics that might look right at home on an arcade console. It follows a standard level based progression with a talent tree like component. The game blends magic and technology for a different take on what we call “steam punk.”
Steam punk is an off-shoot of traditional fantasy that has been around for some time now but largely goes untapped in the gaming world. It is essentially a blend of fantasy elements and high technology that is brought about through steam and mechanical power. In a steam punk game it would not be that off base to see a robot battle a dragon. The robot, however, would not be made of transistors and circuit boards. It would be powered by a boiler and have all sorts of gears, cogs, springs, and sprockets. The genre really is quite unique and exciting. The most familiar example I can think of would be Final Fantasy VI (U.S. FF3). It is in that framework that Neo Steam is set.
Now that I’ve handled the background lets move on to the review itself. Downloading and installing the Neo Steam client is a breeze. The website is very clear about where it is located and the effort to get right into the game is minimal. I had it downloaded, installed and logged in within 90 minutes. In that regard, I have only good things to say about the game.
Character creation was a bit more simplistic than I anticipated it would be. Many races can only be one gender and the customization options are almost non-existent. It can be boiled down to a few quick choices: Which kingdom and what base class? Then you pick from a few faces, grab a hair color, and you’re pretty much off. It was good that I could get into the game quickly but I’m a guy who likes “a bit more than WoW but a lot less than every inch of a character having a slider” in my creation. Either way the process was intuitive and easy to understand. The descriptions of the races and classes were useful and didn’t leave me questioning what I wanted to be (not that I ever questioned. I was going to be a Lupine Justicar).
When I dropped into the game I was a bit surprised by how bright it was. In my experience the steam punk genre is always gritty and smokey. Much like turn of the century England. The town of Diren was nothing like that. It reminded me more of Disney Land. This isn’t really a complaint or a negative. Everyone is entitled to their own vision of a steam punk world. I nosed around a bit I was impressed with the general look and feel of the starting village. It was well animated and had a lot of useful features. NPCs were pretty clear about what services they offered and anyone who wanted to give me a quest whispered at my character and had a WoW style exclamation point over their head. In addition to that there was a quest keeper NPC that told me who had quests for me. That was a nice addition.
Just as I would with most MMOs I grabbed a basic quest or two and jumped outside of town to give the controls a once over. For the most part all of the usual hot keys work as you would expect. There were no strange letter to window mappings that I could find. I certainly had an easier time getting the information I wanted than when I first started Warhammer Online. The learning curve was quite low if you’re familiar with MMOs. What was peculiar was that the game is more mouse driven. You can move and initiate combat with the mouse easily. So much so that I don’t actually move with WASD. With all of that said I only have two real complaints with the default controls. The first is an issue of collision. If you click in the distance and your character collides with something it can often become hung up. You then have to rotate the camera, click off in a clear direction, and go around. The other one, and this is really odd, is that you have to right click your abilities in the hot bar to activate them. I won’t even hint at how many hours I played thinking I was using my abilities before I figured out I wasn’t.
The various environments I visited in Neo Steam were fairly attractive. I traveled through a city, an outpost, a village, a forest, a beach and a bone yard. Each felt distinct and had a fairly polished look. Some of the plants and other environmental objects were surround by “transparent” boxes that blocked what should be an unobstructed view. The game’s various locations seemed well enough put together and were engaging. I just can’t quite say they felt as magical and as polished as Free Realms or some of the other MMOs I’ve played recently.
On a less positive note I have to say I was disappointed with the character models. I can handle them being overly cute but the amount of detail, even on high settings and a great resolution, wasn’t really there. My lupine character just wasn’t what I hoped to see. Looking around at some of the other players I felt pretty much the same way about them. The attachment I normally build rather immediately for my new “Ferrel” or “Thane” just wasn’t there.
When it comes to the actual game play Neo Steam does above average. There is nothing really new here that I have found. You find a few quests, grab them, and go out to complete them. The game also seems pretty dependent on grinding. I didn’t find a ton of quests to do. Of course that has never been a problem for me. The only different thing the game does is foster an early relationship with a pet. Every character gets one and can tailor it to their needs. If you want a little friend to heal you, grab a Gear! Pets can level just like you and are worth keeping around. Beyond that, however, Neo Steam is largely like most every other MMO out there.
Given that Neo Steam is free to play I do not feel entirely justified in comparing it to games with a subscription model. I will say that its a faster paced MMO than most out there with a Diablo II feel. During the time I played I experienced no game stopping errors or crashes and generally had fun. The game is solid and has a more robust combat than Free Realms. It doesn’t quite look as polished, however, and certainly doesn’t seem to exceed the detail of Runes of Magic. I would recommend it to anyone who is a fan of FFXI and wants usable interface or is into anime. In my eyes it is without a doubt the number two FtP combat oriented MMO that I’ve tried. Stacking it against the entire genre, however, I give it 6 out of 10 gnolls.
Originally posted on Epic Slant.